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Clean and Green Retail Ordinance

Information and FAQS pertaining to the City's Clean and Green Ordinance

Beginning on December 1, 2021, the definition of a "reusable carryout bag" is changing to "a bag with stitched handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and is either: (a) Made of cloth or other machine washable fabric; OR (b) Is made of plastic and is greater than 4 mils thick." Plastic bags that are 2.25 mils thick will no longer be compliant.

On January 1, 2020, Albuquerque's Clean and Green Retail Ordinance (§ 13-17-1 to 13-17-4) took effect. Enforcement of the Ordinance was temporarily suspended during the Covid-19 emergency, but has been reinstated. The law aims to improve our environment by curbing the distribution of single-use plastic bags.

Frequently Asked Questions

For Residents For Businesses


For Residents

Which plastic bags are banned?

Any single-use plastic bag for the purpose of carrying products from the point of sale. Single-use plastic bags include compostable and biodegradable bags but do not include paper bags or reusable carryout bags. “Reusable carryout bag” means a bag with stitched handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and is either: (a) Made of cloth or other machine washable fabric; OR (b) Is made of plastic AND is greater than 4 mils thick.

Why ban plastic bags?

  • Plastic bags are a significant source of litter along roadways and in open spaces.
  • Plastic bags are produced from oil and gas and remain in the environment essentially forever.

Can't we recycle plastic bags?

Plastic bags can't be recycled in your blue cart. Plastic bags can be recycled in cardboard receptacles located at many local retail stores. Download a list of updated participating locations. Please call and confirm with the location before taking your plastic bags to be recycled.

How will I carry my groceries home?

Making the switch to reusable bags is recommended, and some retailers give rebates to customers who bring their own bags to the store. There is nothing in the ordinance that prevents customers from bringing their own bags of any type to take home their groceries. Retail stores may provide a compliant bag at the point of sale.

Where can I purchase or find reusable bags?

  • Local grocery retailers
  • Discount retail stores
  • Online
  • Various community events

What should I do with the paper shopping bags that I receive?

Reuse them, recycle them, or donate clean ones to your neighborhood food bank. Paper bags with food or grease on them should go into your trash cart.

Can businesses provide reusable plastic bags or paper bags?

Yes, businesses may substitute paper grocery bags or reusable bags. “Reusable carryout bag” means a bag with stitched handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and is either: (a) Made of cloth or other machine washable fabric; OR (b) Is made of plastic AND is greater than 4 mils thick. Bags may be provided free or charged for at the store's discretion.

Can businesses provide single-use plastic bags made of compostable or biodegradable material?

No, not unless they are a reusable carryout bag. “Reusable carryout bag” means a bag with stitched handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and is either: (a) Made of cloth or other machine washable fabric; OR (b) Is made of plastic AND is greater than 4 mils thick.

Can restaurants provide single-use plastic bags?

Yes. The Ordinance does not apply to food service establishments.

What other food service establishments qualify for an exemption?

In addition to restaurants, snack bars, food trucks, bakeries, and delis are exempt.

Can dry cleaners provide bags?

Yes, dry cleaning bags are exempt.

I use plastic bags to pick up my pet's waste. What will I use instead?

Local pet stores sell bags specifically for this purpose and sale of these bags are not affected by the Ordinance. Existing pet waste stations on trails and in parks will continue to provide plastic bags for discarding pet waste.

What about bakery goods?

Bakeries are exempt and bags of any kind may be used for individual bakery goods, loaves of bread, and other pastries.

What should I do if a store is using plastic bags?

To report concerns about a store using plastic bags, call 311. You will need to provide the name of the business and its address to the 311 representative. Remember, food service establishments, food banks, and dry cleaners are exempt from the Ordinance. Complaints about these establishments using plastic bags will not be taken.

Who may I contact for additional information?

Call 311.


For Businesses

What businesses are affected by the Ordinance?

All businesses within Albuquerque's city limits except for food service establishments, food banks, and dry cleaners. Most retail establishments are subject to the new Ordinance including the following stores:

  • Grocery
  • Department
  • Hardware
  • Liquor
  • Convenience
  • Gift
  • Thrift
  • Book
  • Other retail stores and vendors

There is no exemption for small retailers.

Which plastic bags are allowed?

  • Laundry or dry cleaning bags
  • Restaurant, food service or prepared food counter bags for takeout
  • Meat and produce bags
  • Newspaper and door hanger bags
  • Pet waste, yard waste, and garbage bags
  • Bags provided by pharmacists or veterinarians to contain prescriptions drugs or medical necessities as specified by the Food and Drug Administration
  • Bulk item bags such as for food or hardware items
  • Bags or plastic wraps for flowers or potted plants
  • Bags with stitched handles that are specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and are either: (a) Made of cloth or other machine washable fabric; OR (b) Are made of plastic AND greater than 4 mils thick
  • Bags of any type that a shopper brings to the store for his or her own use to carry away goods at the point of sale
  • Jumbo plastic bags for bedding, furniture, balloons etc.
  • Garment bags

Does the Ordinance require the City to charge businesses a fee for giving out plastic bags, reusable, or paper bags to their customers?

Non-compliant plastic bags may not be issued to customers, even for a fee. The City does not charge any fees for compliant bags, such as reusable bags or paper grocery bags.

Are there any restrictions on businesses choosing to charge a fee on all bags?

No, there are no requirements. This decision is up to the business.

If my business collects bags from customers for recycling, can I reuse the good ones as carryout bags?

No, plastic bags collected from customers cannot be given out to other customers as point of sale bags. Customers may bring in and reuse their own, subject to the policy of the store.

What type of bag is considered reusable?

A bag with stitched handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and is either: (a) Made of cloth or other machine washable fabric; OR (b) Is made of plastic AND is greater than 4 mils thick. This is equivalent to the thickness of a dollar bill.

What should businesses do if they have stockpiles of plastic bags that last beyond the effective date of the ban?

Businesses with locations outside of Albuquerque can ship their bag inventory to those locations. Local businesses should consider donating their remaining stock of single-use plastics bags to a local food bank.

Will leniency be given on bags that almost meet the new definition?

No. Should a question arise, businesses should be prepared to show that the bags they are using have stitched handles and are specifically designed for multiple reuse and are either: (a) Made of cloth or other machine washable fabric; OR (b) Are made of plastic AND greater than 4 mils thick. It might a good idea for businesses to ask bag suppliers to include the thickness of the bag on invoices or have the thickness printed directly on the bag.

What are the differences between the County and the municipal ordinances?

The City Ordinance is in effect within the Albuquerque City limits only. The Bernalillo County Plastic Bag and Styrofoam Ban is in effect in the unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County only. Download a copy of Bernalillo County's Ordinance.

What are the penalties for not complying with these new requirements?

The Ordinance describes enforcement options, including fines for violations of the Ordinance.

What is the City's plan for informing businesses and residents about the Ordinance?

The City will continue to provide information through social media, Chamber of Commerce, business associations, water bill inserts, and other communication tools.

Are retailers allowed to use existing stocks of plastic bags after the December 1, 2021 definition change?

No, retailers are required to clear stocks prior to the change taking effect.

Who may I contact for additional information?

Call 311.

Download a copy of the Clean and Green Retail Ordinance.